EPFO takes state excise department to task
The Ludhiana Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has held the state excise and taxation department jointly responsible for major PF default carried out by a private establishment to the tune of ₹1.22 crore.
The case is related to Gagan Vasu Cine Links, a company linked to liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda. A complaint against the company was moved by Wine Salesman and Workers Union, Jalandhar, on May 1, 2017.
The union had demanded inquiry and action against the establishment for not covering its eligible employees under the Employees’ Provident Funds Scheme, 1952.
During the course of inquiry held between July 2017 and September 2019 that included more than 40 proceedings, the EPFO concluded that M/s Gagan Vasu Cine Links Pvt Ltd was one of the companies of Shiv Lal Doda’s family concerning business related to liquor vends.
The EPFO held that the state excise and taxation department was a principal employer in the case.
A principal employer holds the overall responsibility of ensuring compliance with the EPF Act for employees working through contractors.
In a scathing order against the state excise and taxation department, the EPFO stated that it failed to perform its duties as a principal employer as specified in the Act and schemes.
The order has been passed by Brij Mohan Singh, regional provident fund commissioner-II, Ludhiana. As per EPFO records, the establishment ran more than 250 liquor vends in the district with over 500 employees.
The order stated, “It has been found that establishment M/s Avinash Doda & Associates and Avinash Doda have committed default in respect of employees engaged in various vend shops by not depositing EPF contribution in the respective account of these employees and establishment and M/s Avinash Doda & Associates are held jointly and severally liable for payment for contribution in respective EPF accounts of these employees.”
Stating that the role of state excise and taxation commissioner was not only to act as a regulator, but also as a service provider and manager involved in the entire supply chain of liquor business right from the notification of area, lease out of manufacturing unit and issuance of a licence to end delivery of the product, the EPFO has made the department a party in the case.
The official informed that during the inquiry, the PF code was imposed on the establishment with effect to July 12, 2017, to cover employees engaged by the establishment at various vends as per the licence allotted to M/s Avinash Doda & Associates for the financial year 2017-18.
It has been established by the EPFO in its order issued last week that state excise and taxation department also has control over the deployment of the employees in various wine shops and vends along with the quality of service provided by the employees.
“If the establishment fails to make the payment of the determined amount soon, appropriate action for recovery from the establishment will be taken to enforce this order. In case the establishment and the company fail to make payment of assessed dues even after exhausting all the provisions of the recovery, the principal employer (state excise and taxation department) shall be responsible for the payment,” the orders further mentioned.
“The excise and taxation department does not have any role either in the operation and maintenance or hiring employees for the liquor vends. How a contractor manages his operations and how much investment he does is none of our concern. We only ensure that a licence holder does not employ any person below the age of 25 years,” said Pawan Garg, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Ludhiana.